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© 2010 Ugur Akinci
There are many ways to write a really bad technical document.
Let’s look at some of the foolproof ways to accomplish that.
(1) Obtuse or indecipherable document title
Instead of calling your document “Mark-24 User Manual”, use one of the following titles:
“M24/X-768 Set-5.3 Rev. 188.8.131.52 OPS-VII H4G5”
“The All-Comprehensive and Inclusive Inter-Unit Operation and Functionality Manual Regarding the Use Characteristics and Modality Performance Reference of Mark0-24 Manuf. Lot A4 Telecommunication Pod Replacement Module Revision 184.108.40.206 with Six Appendices, Table of Contents, and an Index”
(2) Wrong, missing or low-quality images
Make sure the readers will not be able to connect the text to the images that you refer to.
For example, if you write “see Fig 12 for wire connection details”, also do one of the following:
- Skip the figure numbers from 11 to 13.
- Leave the spot for figure 12 blank, or with a note that reads either “n/a” or “TBD”.
- Insert a figure that has nothing to do with wiring or terminals — say, a photo of a nuclear power plant.
- Insert a third-generation (photocopy of a photocopy) wiring diagram so poor in quality that the user would not be able to read the important legends and image notes.
(3) Flowery and emotional language
Use an emotional, imprecise and “creative” style to document all your procedural steps.
1 – For goodness sake, first turn off Valve A by turning it in the appropriate direction.
2 – Once you do that, why, it’s time to take the next step: turn Valve B sweetly and gently towards you. (Hey, as they say – no pain no gain!)
3 – By the way, have you checked the pressure gauge in Step 2? (Oops, I forgot to mention that earlier, haven’t I !?) If it’s over 200 psi, boy, somebody’s in trouble!
4 – Once you shut off both valves without any mishap, it’s Miller Time baby (wink wink)!
(4) Circular cross-references
If you have included this cross-reference on Page 6
“NOTE 5: See item 12 on page 100”
include this on page 100:
“Item 12 – See the NOTE on page 56”.
And on Page 56, insert this:
“See NOTE 5 on page 6”.
Send your readers on a wild goose chase to drive them crazy in no time.
(5) No TOC or Index
Do not include a Table of Contents or an Index so that the users will have a hard time finding what they want. Force them either to flip through a thick printed manual or make a search by keyword if they are using it online.
(6) Unusable Index
Include as few nouns and as many adjectives, adverbs, and pronouns as possible in your Index.
Across ……… 4, 6, 8, 9
Am …………. 1 – 100
Amazing ……. 56, 34
Amazingly …… 34, 56, 57, 99
Are …….. 1- 100
As ………. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, etc.
At ………….. 2, 4, 7, 8, 9, 10, 23, 34, 45, 67
Attaining …………. 2, 56, 89
Atrocious …….. 11, 90